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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: WATER MANAGEMENT TO IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY AND PROTECT WATER QUALITY Title: Drainage Water Quality Issues In North America

Authors
item Madramootoo, Chandra - MC GILL UNIVERSITY
item Johnston, William - CONSULTANT
item Ayars, James
item Evans, Robert - NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIV
item Fausey, Norman

Submitted to: Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 19, 2007
Publication Date: December 5, 2007
Citation: Madramootoo, C.C., Johnston, W.R., Ayars, J.E., Evans, R.O., Fausey, N.R. 2007. Drainage Water Quality Issues In North America. Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering. 56:535-545.

Interpretive Summary: Drainage of agricultural land is essential throughout the world in order to maintain the production of food and fiber. However, such drainage cannot always be accomplished without causing third party impacts. This paper describes the need, extent and status of drainage in North America, including water quality issues, drainage water management and disposal problems, and a glimpse into the future of agricultural drainage, in Canada and various areas of the United States of America. The location of the irrigated land is a good indication of the location of principle irrigation and agricultural drainage water quality problems particularly in the semi-arid Central Valley of California and the humid area Mississippi River drainage basin.

Technical Abstract: The North American continent, comprising Canada and the United States of America, has a wide range of climatic, soils and cropping conditions. Surface and subsurface drainage is required to remove excess soil water in the wetter humid regions of the continent, as well as to maintain a favorable salt and water balance in the crop root zone in the drier irrigated regions. Drainage and water table management practices are therefore essential for the production of food and fiber. However, such drainage cannot always be accomplished without causing third party impacts. In order to address these third party impacts, which were largely of a water quality nature, drainage practices have evolved from simply removal of water for increased crop productivity, to a method of environmental control. Consequently, much effort over the recent years has been to design and install drainage systems which have multiple objectives, taking the crop, hydrology, soils and environment into consideration. A very recent notable institutional development is the formation of the Agricultural Drainage Management Systems (ADMS) Coalition, comprised of farmers, drainage contractors and the drainage industry, government advisors, and water management and agricultural specialists, to promote research, education, and adoption of drainage water management as an innovative practice that can reduce the delivery of pollutants to streams. This paper describes the need, extent and status of drainage in North America, including water quality issues, drainage water management and disposal problems, and a glimpse into the future of agricultural drainage, in Canada and various areas of the US.

Last Modified: 12/22/2014
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